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Realistically Set Your Expectations For An Auto-Related Personal Injury Case

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News reports of seven- and eight-figure personal injury settlements capture people's imaginations, but most individuals who file auto injury claims receive much less. In fact, once court fees and other expenses are deducted from a settlement, the amount left is often closer to $10,000 than $1 million or $10 million. If you're considering hiring a personal injury attorney, here's a look at what you might reasonably expect to get from a typical auto injury settlement.

The Typical Auto Injury Settlement Averages $24,000

While auto injury settlements that involve wrongful death suits or lifelong, debilitating injuries may settle for large sums, the average auto injury case settled for just $24,000 in 2013. This figure is an average, and your settlement may be higher or lower, but this average will help put most auto injury cases in perspective.

From this amount, three different fees and expenses will be subtracted before you receive your final amount.

First, Court Costs Are Subtracted

Before anyone else is paid from an auto injury settlement, including your own personal injury attorney and doctors, court costs are first deducted from the amount you're awarded. These fees include expenses associated with copying legal documents, getting expert witnesses and writing depositions. The cost of a single copy may seem minimal, but court costs can add up, as the following examples show:

  • expert medical witness average $555 per hour
  • a transcript can cost between $364 and $417.75
  • expediting services may increase the cost of any service

Together, these fees may lower your settlement by more than $1,000. For instance, hiring a medical expert witness for two hours alone would cost $1,110. The resulting deposition could cost an additional $364 to $417.75. Even if nothing had to be expedited, your settlement might be reduced by between $1,435 and $1,485.

For the example, assume you were awarded a typical settlement of $24,000. After your court costs were subtracted, the amount left would be between $22,526 and $22,472.25.

Second, Personal Injury Attorneys Are Paid

After all court costs are deducted, personal injuries attorneys are paid. Most work on a contingency basis, which means you only have to pay them if you're awarded a settlement. Their fees, however, are substantial. Typical fees are 33 percent for cases that didn't go to trial, and 40 percent for ones that did.

If you have a typical auto injury case that settles for around $24,000, it may not go to trial. Paying your attorney 33 percent of the amount left after court costs, however, still substantially lowers your settlement. Continuing the above example, you might expect to be left with anywhere from $15,092.42 to $15,056.41 after your personal injury attorney's fees.

Third, Your Doctors Are Paid

Finally, before you receive your settlement, your medical care must be paid for. While your case is pending, your attorney may issue letters of protection to any doctors or hospitals that see you. These letters guarantee the medical professionals' payment upon settlement of your case. Once your case is settled, your attorney must honor these letters by paying the medical professionals, or else your personal injury attorney may face disciplinary action or even be sued for the amount due.

If your medical care cost a total of $5,000, honoring these letters would further reduce your settlement by that much. In this example, you'd receive between $10,092.42 and $10,056.41.

These numbers are just an example, but they're a realistic example based on average personal injury settlement amounts and real-life legal fees. If you have lifelong suffering that results from a personal injury accident, you may be awarded a multi-million dollar settlement. Likely, however, your settlement will be closer to $24,000 -- and the amount you ultimately receive will be nearer $10,000.